BlackBerry KEYOne in a nutshell: We examine the best features, eyebrow-raising specs and sexy camera tech packed inside BlackBerry’s KEYOne Android phone, the first and possibly last BlackBerry mobile to be released in the UK in 2017.
BlackBerry launched the new KEYOne handset over in Barcelona for MWC 2017, and already this intriguing blend of old and new is one of the most interesting mobile devices of the year.
Here’s everything you need to know about the BlackBerry KEYOne, including all of the specs and how to buy one here in the UK.
BlackBerry KEYOne isn’t made by BlackBerry
Although BlackBerry has manufactured its own mobiles for a long time now, the KEYOne is actually built by TCL Communications. TCL is a Chinese multi-national babsed in Hong Kong that makes everything from TV sets to washing machines, and has plenty of experience in the mobile market. The company is currently responsible for the Alcatel smartphone range and hopefully will produce more BlackBerry phones in 2017, although rumours point to this being one of the last BB-branded blowers.
BlackBerry KEYOne is made of metal, but still a softy
The KEYOne sports a solid aluminium frame, in keeping with many new smartphones, but also features a soft-touch textured back. This helps to improve grip, while also feeling nice against your palm. However, you don’t get any kind of water resistance, so don’t go getting the KEYOne damp.
BlackBerry KEYOne has a super-smart physical keyboard
BlackBerry fans will likely be relieved to hear that the KEYOne comes packing a physical keyboard beneath the 4.5-inch screen, for anyone who hates those virtual on-screen boards.
It’s not just a simple set of keys, either. That board is touch-sensitive, which means that it responds to your gestures. For instance, just stroke a finger up or down the keyboard to scroll through a webpage or an email. That should make one-handed use much easier.
Each key can also be configured to open the app of your choice, from the KEYOne’s desktops. Good news as long as you can remember that many configurations.
BlackBerry KEYOne packs an unusual (but supremely sharp) screen
The KEYOne’s 4.5-inch IPS screen sports a rather unusual 3:2 aspect ratio, which is a lot more square than most smartphone displays. The reason of course is to fit in that physical keyboard beneath.
One impact of these unusual dimensions is that movies will be presented with a big, fat black bar above and below the letterbox picture. However, the KEYOne’s 1620x1080 resolution (which gives 434 pixels-per-inch) means you’ll enjoy some super-crisp visuals, making the most of any high-def content you watch.
It’s a seriously tough display too, packing Gorilla Glass 4 tech that’s hard to scratch.
BlackBerry KEYOne is safe as houses
You get the latest version 7.1 of Android (Nougat) installed on the KEYOne, which delivers plenty of great features including the ability to split-screen with apps and smart battery monitoring. In fact, BlackBerry has improved on Android in many ways, with a host of bonus features not found on other Android phones.
Read next: Ten ways BlackBerry has improved Android
BlackBerry has also added its own DTEK security suite, which gives you a nifty summary of how secure your phone is and keeps nasties at bay. On the front of the KEYOne you’ll also find a fingerprint sensor, built into the space bar on the keyboard. This can be used to securely unlock your phone with just a quick tap.
BlackBerry KEYOne isn’t quite a powerhouse, but should get the job done
A Snapdragon 625 processor backed by 3GB of RAM runs the show. This is the same chipset found in the Moto Z Play, Motorola’s more affordable version of its mighty Moto Z flagship handset.
On the Moto Z Play we found that the 625 provided smooth everyday performance with just the occasional little stutter or pause. The latest games also proved no problem. However, we expect to see signs of ageing after a year or so of use.
BlackBerry KEYOne offers simple expandability
The 32GB of storage packed inside the KEYOne will probably fill up pretty fast, if you like to shoot lots of video or download dozens of apps. Thankfully you get full microSD support, so you can slip a card up to 256GB in size into the phone to get some more storage space in a jiffy.
BlackBerry KEYOne should deliver solid battery life
Crammed inside the KEYOne is a good-sized 3505mAh cell, which should hopefully provide all-day battery life with relative ease. Even more demanding users will likely make it to bed without stressing about their battery running dry.
And because the KEYOne uses a recent Qualcomm processor, you get full Quick Charge 3.0 support. TCL says that this should allow the battery to charge to half capacity in roughly half an hour, which sounds about right.
BlackBerry KEYOne uses the same camera tech as the super-premium Google Pixel phone
We’ll be fully testing the KEYOne’s camera to see if it’s as strong as the Pixel’s, although you can only record up to Full HD resolution video. The Pixel could shoot up to full 4K Ultra HD resolution footage. However, the likes of Phase Detection Autofocus means the KEYOne should suffer from very little shutter lag, even when taking action shots.
BlackBerry KEYOne is available now in the UK, although only from one shop
The BlackBerry KEYone is available right now, for keen BB fans - but if you don't live in London, you'll have to trek a bit for your new smartphone. For the first week, the KEYOne is exclusively stocked at the Selfridges store in Oxford Street. The new phone costs £499, so less than most other flagship handsets.
If you can be patient, or simply don't fancy making the trip down south, don't worry. The BlackBerry KEYOne can be purchased from Carphone Warehouse stores across the UK from May 5. The asking price will once again bbe £499.
Stay tuned for our full KEYOne review and check out our hands-on review of the phone from MWC below.